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Night White Skies

Join Sean Lally in conversation about architecture’s future, as both earth’s environment and our human bodies are now open for design. The podcast engages a diverse range of perspectives to get a better picture of the events currently unfolding. This includes philosophers, cultural anthropologists, policy makers, scientists as well as authors of science fiction. Each individual’s work intersects this core topic, but from unique angles. Sean Lally is an architect based in Lausanne, Switzerland. His office, Sean Lally Architecture, is dedicated to engaging today’s greatest pressures - a changing climate and advances in healthcare and consumer devices that are redefining the human bodies that occupy our environments. Lally is the author of the ‘The Air from Other Planets: A Brief History of Architecture to Come’ (Lars Muller). Lally has lectured worldwide and has been a visiting professor at the University of Virginia, Pratt Institute and Rice University. Lally is the recipient of the Young Architects Award from the Architectural League of New York and the Prince Charitable Trusts Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome in Landscape Architecture. www.seanlally.net
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Jan 30, 2024

Sometimes it’s only through repetition and time that insight into your actions are revealed. This might come about because aspects of those actions aren’t always fully intentional. When it comes to Night White Skies, I firmly believe to be routed in architecture, but I’ve heard it described by others as often drifting beyond this topic But what I’ve come to appreciate more and more over time is the importance of a ‘hunch’. The idea that experience over time offers you the ability to see patterns and outcomes enough times that when an opportunity presents itself, you can see value within. A ‘hunch’ that pivoting in an unexpected direction can offer insight and opportunity. And so, when Night White Skies ‘drifts’ beyond architecture explicitly, I like to think it’s because I’m playing a ‘hunch’.  

This extended introduction has now of course put unnecessary attention on my guest today, so I apologize for that. But Christopher Schaberg has been on this program before so I already knew this would be a rewarding conversation The title of Chris’s latest book is ‘Adventure, an Argument for Limits’, and it’s this title, ‘Adventure’ that drew my attention and what I wanted to explore more regarding architecture. Do we need more adventure in architecture and what exactly would that entail? 

To go on an adventure requires risks, setbacks, you might even get lost. But in return you end up somewhere physically, ideologically or emotionally elsewhere? You have changed. In this case, architecture has changed.  

So, what was my hunch here today? I’m not sure if it’s due to architecture’s disciplinary training and education or its position in various industries but architecture relies heavily on presenting ideas as the correct one! As inevitable, as the obvious solution. When thinking of the plethora of pressures facing humanity today, the architect continues the showmanship of presenting right answers and declaring which are the rights paths to follow. And I of course understand the economic reasoning for why this is at least partially necessary. No client wants to spend millions of dollars to deliver a project that ‘might’ work 

With the shear complexity of issues today related to climate, social justice, healthcare, communication technologies, how can we so consistently claim to have right answers and paths to follow? On an adventure, it’s the mishaps, wrong turns, and reflection that help us reorient not only where we thought we wanted to go but our understanding of where we started.  

What I find unique about adventures is how you talk about them. The way in which you retell an adventure to others, sharing experiences and knowledge learned. You include others in your adventure simply by retelling them. Adventures are somehow collective. But it increasingly feels as if architects desire to lay claim to territory as some form of demonstration of disciplinary or personal control has instead splintered the discipline into a thousand fiefdoms with no kingdom to speak of. Laying claim to territory has impinged on the ability to wander. Wandering with purpose would be nice. It always seems like a good idea to go on an adventure, but for architecture now, it seems like it might actually be necessary.  

Christopher Schaberg is Director of Public Scholarship at Washington University in St. Louis, and the author of nine books, including The End of Airports, Pedagogy of the Depressed, Fly-Fishing, and most recently Adventure: An Argument for Limits. Schaberg is also a founding co-editor of Object Lessons, a book series dedicated to the hidden lives of ordinary things.   

 

You can find all episodes at www.NightWhiteSkies.com 

Thoughts or suggestions, email me at NWS@seanlally.net 

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